Swann's international career looked set to be a brief one when he was discarded by England after making a solitary one-day international appearance against South Africa in January 2000.
Having waited more than seven years for a second opportunity at the highest level, he quickly set about making up for lost time and became firmly established as one of the leading slow bowlers in the world.
An attacking off-spinner who can extract prodigious turn and represents a genuine wicket-taking threat, Swann undoubtedly provided England's attack with a new dimension.
He can also make an impact with the bat, highlighted by a Test-best of 85, and is surely among the most competitive players around.
It was Swann's batting that initially drew attention and he compiled a maiden first-class century for Northamptonshire in 1998.
Called up to England's ODI squad in place of the injured Ashley Giles more than two years later, he debuted in a nine-wicket victory at Bloemfontein but then fell out of favour with coach Duncan Fletcher.
Swann moved to Nottinghamshire at the end of the 2004 season and went on to tour the United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka with England A.
Yet it was not until the winter of 2007 that he returned to the international arena, playing in four of England's five ODIs in Sri Lanka.
A man-of-the-match performance in the third game of the series, which saw him return 4-34 from 10 overs before contributing a vital 25 with the bat, hinted at greater things to come and it was not long before he was a regular in all forms of the international game.
His ability to frequently pick up a wicket in the first over of a spell - as he did on Test debut against India at Chennai in December 2008 - commanded plenty of attention, yet greater praise was reserved for his overall contribution as a bowler.
After dismissing Mike Hussey to seal England's 2009 Ashes triumph at The Oval, he was rewarded with a central contract for 2009-10 and grew in confidence on the tour of South Africa where he was man of the match in the first two Tests.
He was similarly impressive in Bangladesh, Chittagong in particular, when he became the first England off-spinner to take 10 wickets in a match since Jim Laker in 1956 - a performance which took him to second in the International Cricket Council Test bowling rankings.
His reward for a stellar 12 months was being named one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year.
Swann continued to impress in 2010, taking 16 wickets in the two-Test series in Bangladesh before helping England to a memorable success at the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.
Wickets came at a regular rate throughout the summer and he then helped Andrew Strauss' side secure Ashes glory in Australia, contributing five second-innings wickets in the victory at Adelaide and 15 scalps in total.
By the end of 2011, which saw him continue to deliver impressive performances in all forms, he was firmly established as one of the first names on England's team sheet, highlighted by his promotion to T20 captain in the absence of the injured Stuart Broad.
Swann continued to excel with the ball in 2012, taking 29 wickets in five winter Tests against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Another trip to the sub-continent the following winter proved fruitful; the off-spinner was England's most prolific bowler as they won on Indian soil for the first time in 28 years.
He missed the subsequent series in New Zealand with an elbow injury but, following an operation, was back to his best in the summer. Profiting on some turning surfaces during a 3-0 home Ashes success, he was the most prolific bowler on show with 26 scalps. He was less successful in the return rubber that winter and retired from international and first-class cricket with England 3-0 down after three Tests.